Education can often be competitive: the grading scale determines winners and losers (albeit the students themselves are often the ones to determine ‘winning’ vs. ‘losing’ grades), and class averages are often used to help students determine whether or not they were successful on a given assignment. While comparative statistics can serve as motivation for students to perform better, Dr. Mary Beth Leibham, Department of Psychology, states how she prefers to motivate students in a different way:
One thing I do that I think stands in contrast to a lot of students’ experience is that I do not reveal any information on distribution of grades. Some of the first questions I get when I hand back an exam or assignment are ‘what was the class average?’ or ‘what was the high/low score?’ Because of my motivational perspective, I don’t give students this comparative information. Some of the research on academic motivation and goal-orientation has determined that one of the factors that leads students to be more performance-oriented is comparative data. I’m trying to get them to focus more on themselves, on their individual learning process, and less on how they are doing compared to others.
Interviewed by: Jon Pumper